A market leader generates new demand in a fast-changing retail landscape


Rust-Oleum is the leading manufacturer of premium consumer and industrial paint and coating products. While market share remains strong, they recognized a shift where retailers are increasingly capitalizing upon consumer insights stemming from proprietary purchase data, and Rust-Oleum wanted to ensure they remain at the forefront of understanding consumer needs. 

As retailers build sophisticated media networks capable of targeted advertising throughout the customer journey, Rust-Oleum identified their own need to deepen target audience segmentation, streamline consumer purchase journeys, and improve product experiences. They are constantly working to increase brand consideration across products to build loyalty and generate repeat purchases. While Rust-Oleum has built substantial retail distribution through product innovation and depth of channel relationships, it has become essential for Rust-Oleum to build its own demand generation capability to inspire and educate consumers in new ways. 

Central to this transformation is the pivotal role of data, posing a significant opportunity in understanding target audiences, evaluating sales performance, and aligning marketing investments with sales and broader business objectives. 

Rust-Oleum’s ambition goes beyond defining a new organizational function; it requires a shift towards consumer-centricity, emphasizing projects over products and necessitating the establishment of robust data-driven capabilities. 

As a leader in their space, the company recognized the importance of staying ahead of the latest demand generation capabilities and ways of working.  


Organizational paradigm shifts are complex. Helping this 103-year-old company transition from a product-centric wholesaler to a customer-driven growth engine required four components.  

Structural overhaul: Rust-Oleum’s first crucial step clarified the structure, capabilities, and resources required for the demand generation team. That meant redefining the marketing function, finding new ways to work with sales and content creation teams.  

Prophet, which has researched ways brand and demand work together in today’s marketing industry, helped increase focus on internal misunderstanding of a demand generation capability, emphasizing the importance of understanding a broader audience target beyond their core spray paint consumers. We helped stakeholders see how these demand generation goals align with the company’s overarching business objectives. 

Building the perfect pilot: Next, we focused on creating a tangible example of exemplary demand generation, illustrating what success looks like from conception to execution. The effort required a comprehensive industry and landscape analysis, using competitive insights to deepen the company’s audience personas and develop a meticulous media plan.  

Full-funnel implementation: The solution also emphasized a full-funnel approach, guiding Rust-Oleum beyond awareness and into sustained engagement and enablement.  The company has implemented that approach across their national marketing platform as they shift focus from products to projects. 

While the company was experienced in using paid media to engage audiences and spur sales, this revamped strategy opened new ways to sustain, maintain and nurture consumer relationships across owned channels and touchpoints. 

Sharpening measurement tools: Ongoing campaign planning and execution is measuring performance and improving the effectiveness of the end-to-end demand generation process. This equips Rust-Oleum with the ability to optimize their retail media, drive brand awareness and allow for future project inspiration. And it is building organizational confidence that will guide future investments. 


Rust-Oleum kicked off the first campaign using this full-funnel approach in late 2023, with plans to run through the summer of 2024. Paid search, paid social, and direct partnerships with industry publications began generating positive outcomes almost immediately.  And the new approach is helping the team use real-time performance data to refine and enhance investment strategies, which are skills it needs to compete in dynamic retail environments. 

Rust-Oleum’s robust data analysis has allowed the team to develop vital experimentation muscle. The current marketing campaign includes many new test and learn approaches to assess paid media impact on sales and improve marketing performance, thus driving future investment decisions.  Armed with these findings, the company is moving beyond advertising, creating web and mobile experiences that enrich the consumer journey. 

Rust-Oleum is evolving from a traditional wholesaler to a consumer-centric organization, tapping into new audiences and product use cases to drive sales more effectively. 

These insights are building the brand’s retail resilience, helping it make profound correlations between marketing efforts and sales impact. These are the kind of “aha” moments that build brand relevance and lead to uncommon growth. 

“This effort involved new thinking for Rust-Oleum. Armed with more robust data and insights, we can drive sales and support our retail partners. Prophet helped us bring deep credibility and rigorous data measurement. That was invaluable in demonstrating the impact of Demand Generation to our executives. The Prophet team is also fun and meshed with us in ways we haven’t experienced before. That helped us upskill our own teams and get to unexpected solutions faster.”

Lisa Bialecki
Vice President, Strategic Communications & Demand Generation

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